While the majority of attention this year will focus on an intense Premier League title race, for lower-ranked clubs the aim is simply to protect their status in the English top flight. Three new teams have come up from the Championship all with aspirations of avoiding an immediate return, while there are a handful of Premier League stalwarts that are bound to struggle this season.
The clear favourites for relegation are Crystal Palace. At 4/9 they narrowly beat Hull City (4/7) to the unwanted favourites tag but there is definite reasoning behind it. Palace have strengthened but not with the correct players. Paying £6m for Peterborough’s Dwight Gayle is a big gamble for a man unproven in the top flight, while Stephen Dobbie and Elliot Grandin are both Championship players at best.
Maybe Ian Holloway is getting desperate, for he signed Arsenal and West Ham flop Marouane Chamakh on a one-year deal this week. Fans can expect to see very little of the Moroccan international who has proven incapable of handling and speed and physicality of Premier League football.
Hull are also reasoned favourites for the drop, for despite seven new acquisitions Steve Bruce’s men lack that Premier League quality. Danny Graham could make the difference if he finds the net but after a disappointing stint at Sunderland last season that appears unlikely.
Of the three clubs promoted from the Championship, Cardiff (7/4 to go down) appear the most likely to survive. Malky Mackay has been shrewd in the transfer window this summer, keeping the bulk of his team and adding quality here and there – rather than overhauling it like Holloway and Bruce. Andreas Cornelius could be the Premier League’s next Alan Shearer if the big Dane is given his chance, while signing Tottenham’s Steven Caulker is a steal at £8m.
For fans predicting a current top-flight team will drop into the mire this year, look no further than Stoke (11/4) and Sunderland (9/2). While Stoke have a manager in Mark Hughes who only seems to capable of working with new players, Paolo Di Canio’s impact at Sunderland has now died and Black Cats fans will come to realise kicking and screaming isn’t the best way out of a relegation battle.